Millions of patients suffering with AF may be missing out on a life-saving procedure

  • Posted on 05.12.2019

Millions of patients suffering with AF may be missing out on a life-saving procedure

Alenka Brzulja

Alenka Brzulja

Vice President of Cardiovascular & Specialty Solutions EMEA, Johnson & Johnson Medical Devices Companies


Our recently published report examining the available treatment options for Atrial Fibrillation (AF) across Europe has found that millions of patients suffering with the condition don’t have access to a potentially life-saving treatment — catheter ablation therapy.

Currently, 11 million people in Europe are affected by AF, a condition characterized by an irregular and often fast heart rhythm that results in an uncoordinated contraction of the top two chambers of the heart.  This arrhythmia increases the risk of other potentially fatal conditions, leading to five times the risk of heart failure, an increase in the risk of stroke cardiovascular mortality. Despite these worrying statistics, the seriousness of AF is critically misunderstood, with a significant percentage of patients mistakenly believing it not life-threatening.

Treatment of AF focuses on managing the irregular heart rhythm, improving symptoms and reducing complications — with the overarching aim of improving life expectancy and quality of life. Amongst the options available for the long-term management of AF patients in Europe are antiarrhythmic drugs (AADs) and the aforementioned catheter ablation.

The report, which reviewed independent studies of current treatments, highlighted that just half of patients (52%) are well-managed by AADs yet, despite this, only 4% of eligible patients receive catheter ablation — a treatment that’s considered almost 10 times more effective in delaying AF progression than AADs.

And this is not the only data about catheter ablation in the report that’s worth flagging — the potential positive results brought about by this particular treatment option are far-reaching, touching efficacy, quality of life, Adverse Events and healthcare costs.

Let’s look at these statistics in more detail. There are sustained results with up to 94% patients free from arrhythmia recurrence after one year and 48% free from arrhythmia after four years. There is a greater improvement in patients’ quality of life, namely 37% versus 18% for AADs. There is a 46% lower incidence of death, stroke, cardiac arrest and cardiovascular hospitalization over seven years, when compared to AADs.Finally, there is a reduction in the need of unplanned medical visits by up to 80%, plus long-term cost savings of 35%

Given that, by 2030, the number of people with AF is projected to increase I believe we should be doing more to raise the profile of catheter ablation as a key treatment approach for one of the world’s most significant health issues. And this is doubtless where we come in, those who have a voice within the global healthcare community. My view is that we are duty-bound to ensure that all those HCPs involved in the management and treatment of AF throughout Europe have a clear picture of all the options available — so that no patient misses out on a potentially life-saving procedure.

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